Backing up your technological expertise with a degree in ITnetworkor computer science is a smart career move for advancing in one of America's largest and fastest-growing sources of employment.
Due to the persistent evolution of new cutting-edge technologies and business' constant effort to integrate these resources into enhancing productivity, high-tech industries are consistently adding on to the millions of jobs already available. In fact, nearly 119,000 technology sector jobs were added during the first half of 2014.
Below we'll delve deeper into how you can receive your technology education at a great value and start reaping a high ROI with your marketable computer skills.
Types of Technology Degrees
Since there is a strong demand in high-tech industries, it's no surprise that computer and IT degrees are growing in popularity across all academic levels. Associate-level programs offered at community colleges and technical schools can be a great stepping stone into IT. Associate of Science (A.S.) and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) programs can be found concentrated in areas like information technology, health information technology, construction technology, engineering technology, computer network management, and web development. For professional-level roles in computer services, you'll likely need a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in these fields from a four-year university though.
At the graduate level, master's degree programs offer individuals the chance to specialize their career objectives further and advance into leadership positions. Usually leading to a Master of Science (M.S.), graduate schools offer a wide range of IT-related majors, such as computer science, computer network administration, digital media, cyber security, biotechnology, information systems management, web technology, software development, information technology, educational technology, information science, bioinformatics, and computer engineering. Though few practicing computer professionals possess them, Ph.D. degrees are available for doctoral students seeking advanced research or faculty positions in technology too.
Online vs. On-Campus Learning
Information technology is a field that encompasses the design, utilization, and support of computer systems, so it makes sense that online learning is a growing alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms.
Resource: The 30 Best Affordable Online Colleges
Computer and IT degrees require a fairly intense amount of coursework, but they have the unique advantage of being among the most compatible degrees for online education. Earning an IT degree online is often ideal for currently employed professionals who are unable to transport their lives to a college campus. Online learning provides the flexibility to attend class anytime 24/7 within your busy schedule from anywhere with an Internet connection.
Unlike traditional on-campus programs, online learning will require students to have an independent work ethic to figure out challenging concepts on their own. Most online programs will suggest that students already possess some computer programming knowledge or attend certain math-intensive courses on-campus first to build these basics. Be sure you choose an accredited online program that will allow access to the same software being used in campus laboratories. While still receive a top-notch online education, you'll likely save considerable money forgoing daily commutes, babysitter charges, housing fees, and meal plan costs.
Online Undergraduate Degrees in Computers and Information Technology
- Top 10 Cheap Online Database Management Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
- Top 10 Cheap Online Computer Programming Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
- Top 10 Cheap Online Game Design Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
- Top 8 Cheap Online Mobile Computing Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
- Top 10 Cheap Online Software and Systems Engineering Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
- Top 10 Cheap Online Internet Security Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
- Top 10 Cheap Online Information Technology and Systems Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
- Top 10 Cheap Online Information Systems Security Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
- Top 9 Cheap Online Graphic Design Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
- Top 10 Cheap Online Web Design Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
- Top 10 Cheap Online Network Administration Degree Programs (Bachelor's)
Online Graduate Degrees in Computers and Information Technology
- Top 20 Cheap Online Master's and MBA in Information Technology and Information Systems Degree Programs
- Top 15 Cheap Online Master's in Network Management Degree Programs
- Top 10 Cheap Online Master's in Software Engineering Degree Programs
- Top 9 Cheap Online Master's in Educational Technology Degree Programs
Financial Aid Options
When it comes to securing financial aid, you'll find that there are plentiful opportunities available to reduce the cost of your computer degree if you start early and heed critical deadlines. Your first step towards affording your program should be filling out the FAFSA form. By completing this application with up-to-date financial information, it'll be determined which financial aid, grants, student loans, and GI military benefits you could qualify for. If you have significant financial need, you may be eligible for the Pell Grant of FSEOG Grant. Other major financial aid programs include Stafford Loans, Parent PLUS Loans, and Direct Loans from the government. (See: 5 Important Things to Know About College Loans)
Due to the fact that many IT graduates are leaving school saddled with student loan debt, you should borrow carefully and look for additional funding areas that won't need to be repaid. For instance, many students apply for work-study programs to receive free tuition money in exchange for working an on or off-campus service job. Finding an opening in your university's IT department or library could build useful experience while reducing college's financial burden. If you're already employed full-time, inquire about tuition reimbursement programs offered by your company and up to 90% of your degree's cost could be covered by your employer.
See also: The Ultimate Guide to Affording College
Another potentially lucrative area of financial aid that should never be overlooked is scholarship funding, which is rather abundant for technology majors. Use your computer skills to start searching through the bevy of online scholarship search engines available at your fingertips. You should also make an appointment in your university's financial aid office to determine what scholarships are offered directly through your school. Scholarships can range in value from $100 to full tuition coverage, so be on the lookout for opportunities that match your career interests and skill sets. Some great national scholarships include:
• Microsoft Scholarship Program - Through the technology giant Microsoft, college tuition scholarships are granted annually to students enrolled full-time in computer-related bachelor's degree programs in North America to pursue a career in the software industry.
• Google Lime Scholarship - Each year, Google partners with Lime Connect to offer a $10,000 for students with visible and invisible disabilities to enroll in an undergraduate or graduate degree program in computer science full-time to build a successful career in any technology-related field.
• HP Scholars Program - For underrepresented minority students of African American, Latino, or American Indian ethnicities, the HP Scholars Program offers $12,000 over four years to reduce the cost of earning a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, computer engineering, or electrical engineering from a partnering university.
- Mobile Computing Scholarships
- Information Security and Assurance Scholarships
- Database Management Scholarships
- Computer Programming Scholarships
- Game Design Scholarships
- Software Engineering Scholarships
- Internet Security Scholarships
- Information Technology Scholarships
- Graphic Design Scholarships
- Network Management Scholarships
- Web Design Scholarships
- Scholarships for Women
Booming Technology Careers
Computers now touch nearly every aspect of modern business life, so earning a computer or IT degree is a surefire way to unlock numerous different career choices. Software developers hold the largest occupation in the industry thanks to their skills in designing computer programs. However, other rapidly growing jobs in IT are available for computer programmers, computer systems analysts, computer support specialists, network administrators, database managers, network security analysts, web designers, and even tech entrepreneurs. Individuals who use their IT degree in the thriving healthcare industry in medical informatics can also receive favorable job prospects. With experience, IT graduates can also rise through the rankings to receive the executive-level promotion to Chief Technology Officer (CTO).